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fogza's Top 20 of 2021
20Dusted (CAN, Lo-Fi)

Indie rock / Lo-fi

Yeah so this was my favourite "3.5" rounding out the top 20. Reverby, lo-fi, almost nursery rhyme-esque level of catchy folk and pop rock. I just found it such a good car album, just always there when I couldn't decide what to listen to, ghostly, sad but also reassuring. Honestly I'd give it a 4 if it didn't sound so much like their other records. I probably will 4 it at some point.
19Zahara (SA)
Nqaba Yam

Soul / Folk

This is not something that would appeal to any alternative or demanding listener, basically easy listening conventional soul, light jazz, and folk ballads. Zahara has a gift though, and transcends how generic and corny this may sound to most people. I'm glad to see a release from her this year despite her deeply troubled life.
Cherry Limbo

Indie pop

This is an EP so I feel bad putting this on here, but paired with the Petrol Bloom EP, it would be a smashing pop record and I'd rate it higher. Laid back but lively, contemporary and old school in one go, Laurel is the real deal.
17Wale (Brazil)

Shoegaze / Lo-fi

Bare bones writing, bedroom pop production, but at times it crushes. Has magic about it, and is more than the sum of its parts.
The Heavy Frigate

Indie pop / dream pop

The Heavy Frigate is classy and tasteful, and there's an ambient aspect at play without sacrificing songcraft, which I appreciate. It does sound a bit like someone taking a boat trip to clear their mind. The protagonist is too polite to bother you directly with what he's wrestling with out there on the waves, but something's up, however calm the surface is.
15The Exit Bags
Tower of Quiet

Indie rock / Lo-fi

Probably the hardest record to get a handle on on this list. Sound like someone blew up a portion of the studio and the band is still playing on, despite a gaping hole with wind rushing through the place. There's water falling into buckets, the guitar necks are all snapped, and they have unsafe zones because of severed electric cables. Wolves have discovered the entrance, and everyone is trying to be very quiet, except when they bump the shrapnel embedded in their legs.
14Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Post rock

This is just a really solid Godspeed release. I feel as if they are pushing more for consistency and power, and this actually makes it an easy listen by their standards. There seems to be a weight and bore to this that makes it more of their muscular "rock out" record for me, and that's kind of cool.
13Valerie June
The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers


Valerie June finds a way to take a very traditional soul sound and give it a more cosmic setting, like a slightly scuffed stone in a brand new ring. Although many have remarked on her voice being a defining factor, I do not find it that challenging as far as "character" voices go. The arrangements can take you a place of lights and comets, but as evidenced by her home performances, the songs are grounded in earthy basics. Which is odd because some of her chatter between songs is decidedly flaky.
12Emma Ruth Rundle
Engine of Hell

Indie Rock / Folk

I've always found ERR's albums start strong and peter out a bit along the way, but this collection of white knuckle examinations of trauma and coping discipline maintains intensity throughout. When it's spare, it rides out on her tightrope performances, and when the song writing is at the fore (like on "Body" or "Razor's edge") she can keep you in suspense or helps you find your footing.


The only dubstep I know with any real familiarity is Burial, but perhaps this will change that. Prxz find songs amongst the repetition and frayed samples, perhaps not with the same level of artistry as a Burial, but there's something there and it's an easy repeat record. At times very moving, like when you clear out personal things and find a photo you haven't seen in years.
10Lana Del Rey
Chemtrails Over The Country Club


Much maligned on Sput, and I really don't know why. "White dress" is an instant classic and the album is littered with great songs - probably the easiest, breeziest listen of the 3 NFR era records. I almost want to rate it higher but the confusing backlash has probably put some doubt in my mind.
9Mabe Fratti
Será que ahora podremos entendernos

Modern Classical / Art pop

I don't listen to lots of modern classical but Fratti finds the way to make this intriguing to the casual listener. The album captures a feeling of neutral expectation, like when you see a drop of water hanging from the edge of a tap and it's about to fall. There's an excitement in that.

Indie rock

This is the best so far from Torres. Big, full of rocky fuzz and pomp, then transitioning to electronic passages with ease. I like how it's supposed to be a little jarring, there's an intentionality about the off balance feel to the record. Some great roll down the windows material here.
7The War On Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore

Indie rock

The War on Drugs release something a bit more straight ahead. The songs don't meander as much and there's less blurring at edges sonically. It's fun to listen to, has heart, and there's one or two new sounds here and there. Barring the opener it doesn't have the same emotional impact as their previous two releases, but they do make the case for being one of the best soft rock bands going at the moment.
6Lana Del Rey
Blue Banisters


LDR gives a more intimate, loose and grounded record, and continues to find new means of expression. Great songs, great singing, and all the more impressive considering it's the second release of the year.
5Japanese Breakfast

Indie pop

JB's debut was short but heavy - the ability to release something like this is a testament to Michelle Zauner's songwriting that she's able to examine a different emotional space and have it be successful. A glorious burst of sonic colour from start to finish, and an important evolution from the sophomore record.
4Mdou Moctar
Afrique Victime

Classic Rock / Blues / Folk

The story of Mdou Moctar is fascinating - hearing how music is traded in nomadic communities on phones as if we are still in the age of discovery: wanderers in the desert spreading the rumour of a great artist. Perhaps the romance has been diminished somewhat since Mdou's found a more traditional (the irony) distributor, but isn't that even more magical in some ways? This is another beautiful release that eschews some of the energy of the previous record but finds a gentler, more hypnotic space.
3Aeon Station

Indie rock

It's sad that the Wrens seem to be no more but I can't blame Kevin for going it alone; these songs and performances are too good to keep on the shelf. I always was of the opinion that Charles was the greater talent and it's true he adds much to Wrens sound, but listening to this makes me realise how good both of them are, and comparing them is unnecessary. If we can only hear them as solo artists going forward, I'll take that over never hearing anything new again.
Hey What

Indie rock / Slowcore

The new Low sound is unmistakably still them, but there's so much crunch and splendour. Powerful and unexpected, and the vocals sound as good as ever. This is definitely the refinement of the Double Negative sound, and the more impressive of the two albums that represent this fork in the musical road. Bravo for them finding this new corner of slowcore to inhabit.
1Art School Girlfriend
Is It Light Where You Are


I'm for sure at a place in my life where execution is becoming more important than innovation. While there are lots of acts who do this kind of thing, Polly Mackey has put together something that accurately captures a certain frame of mind and mode of being. Nothing on this album seems out of place, and it's without a doubt the 2021 release I played the most from beginning to end. I'm a fan of an artist who can really communicate with the listener, and despite the whole thing having a soft blur, it's clear as an unobstructed view across a massive plaza.
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